Fondazione Merz

Zena el Khalil. Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon

18 September – 27 October 2017


Beit Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon


A project by Zena el Khalil


Exhibition curated by Beatrice Merz and Janine Maamari

Fondazione Merz and Liban Art are delighted to present Sacred Catastrophe: Healing Lebanon, an exhibition space for peace and reconciliation by Zena el Khalil.

For 40 days, the personal exhibition of Zena el Khalil, accompanied by numerous events (workshops, conferences, performances, concerts, debates), will animate Beit Beirut, a symbol of the troubled history of Lebanon’s war. The building is located on the “green line”, a “no-man’s land” that during the civil wars divided the city into two, separating the Muslim-majority neighbourhood from that of a Christian majority. Due to its strategic position, this residential building was converted into a fort and became a favourite hideout for snipers.

Zena el Khalil has always been deeply involved in the memory of the history of her country and of the consequences that have derived from it. Her work focuses on the consideration that art and culture can have a positive impact on the world. In particular, for this project she reflects on the will to transform an idea, an object, a place of violence into something that generates peace.

For the Beit Beirut exhibition, Zena el Khalil presents a series of paintings, sound and video works distributed over the two floors of the building.

Her work emerges from a process that begins with healing ceremonies in places that have experienced violent experiences such as massacres, torture or also natural catastrophes. The ceremonies include a phase of meditation, songs and dances, and a ritual of purifying fire.

These are followed by a creative phase that corresponds to the transposition and transformation of negative energy residues into love and light. The artist realises her paintings using intricate fabrics dyed with a black ink obtained from soot that is beaten on the surface of the canvas, creating prints.

In a final act, she paints “mantras” in Arabic with words embodying messages of love, forgiveness, and peace, relieving the place of its pain and weight of suffering, with the goal of creating a collective model of peace and reconciliation.

The project has been realised with the patronage of Beirut City.